URBAN LEGENDS FROM STARR COUNTY
Contributed by June Garza


Warning:  Some of the following material refers to violent crimes or acts.
 

I. What I knew about the subject before starting the exploration.

Before I started exploring this particular subject I had a fascination with urban legends not only from my culture but from other cultures and the rest of the world as well. I began my exploring knowing for a fact that there were several eerie legends involving the school campus I attended, which was Fort Ringgold.  I remember back when I was in the third grade or younger that I used to skip lunch and anxiously go directly to the school’s library just to read Alvin Schwartz Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. When I had the books in my hand I used to pick the dimmest place in the library and spent the whole hour just reading. As I would read those books I remember my heartbeat would rise as I sat there by myself in the library reading those books.  I remember my fascination grew even stronger when I was in the fifth grade. Our teacher Mr. Amador used to turn off the lights in the room in our school, Fort Ringgold, and tell us various stories, which were mostly scary, some were not that scary but they were interesting to know. I remember that we couldn’t wait until the hour came in which Mr. Amador would begin telling the whole class the stories. I will add that all of the stories Mr. Amador would tell us came from his memory or his heart because he never had a book with him as he read to us in class. Now days I ask myself; what is it in us human beings that we love for someone to tell us a scary story?
 
 

II. Why I chose this topic ( how doing this assignment might benefit me later )

I chose this subject mostly because I’ve always wanted to know and discover new urban legends from where I live, and also to answer the following questions:

1. Are there any urban legends in Starr County?
2. What is it in us humans that we love for someone to tell us a scary story or just to listen to one?
 
 

III. How I conducted the search-- the process. Exactly where I went and what I did.

I did not have much trouble conducting the search. One day while surfing the web in my house, I ended up in Amazon.com’s site which sells books. In there I found my childhood books that I used to read in the library. When I saw them I had this great feeling like I wanted those books. I ended up typing in my credit card numbers and indeed the books came three days later in a UPS truck. I bought those books on my own free will even before I started this semester in college. Buying those books really helped because there a few legends from South Texas in them. The search was also not hard because I have a big family of relatives which have lived here in Texas and also some from Mexico whom have tons of stories to tell. Also in this very same semester I discovered a new relative which I did not know we were cousins, and we both attend this same class with Dr. Mitchell. My search consisted of several telephone calls, roughly about 15 people of whom one was my girlfriend, several uncles of mine, both of my parents, my two sisters, my grandparents, and several other relatives, but unfortunately not any strangers of who I really would have enjoyed interviewing. My first interview is with my grandfather who resides in Camargo his name is J. Cruz Garza. The ‘J’ I do not know what it stands for and in my interview I asked him what it stood for. I might add that the interview is all in Spanish.

June: Le iba a preguntar si acaso usted sabe algun tipo de leyendas de aqui porque estoy asiendo un proyecto escolar acerca de leyendas en nuestra cultura.

J.Cruz Garza: "Pues si, fijate que si, si me se varias".

June: Antes de que continue expliqueme que significa la letra ‘J’ en su nombre?

J. Cruz Garza: "Cuando estaba joven era comun de que los padres le pusieran una ‘j’ en los nobres de sus recien nacidos. Era como una nueva moda en esos dias. Pero ya no se usa eso".

( We did not finish our interview because my grandfather sometimes gets sick and sometimes is not well. Sometimes he asks my dad, Who are you? My father has to remind him; "I am your son", but all of this in Spanish of course)

( My second interview was with my parents, both at the same time. I asked them that if I could record them, and they agreed. My father’s name is Hilario Garza Gonzalez and my mom’s name is Maria Elva Moreno Garza. Both of my parents know the English language but only my mom speaks it most of the time.)

June: Se saben algunas leyendas de aqui en Rio Grande City ó de Starr County?

Father: "Pues yo me se la de ‘La Santa Cruz’ ".

June: Haber expliqueme.

Father: " Yo me se esta leyenda porque me la contaron, pero no me acuerdo quien me la contó. Pero mas o menos así es, hace muchos años aquí en Río Grande, estaban unos campesinos trabajando en la labor cerca de La Santa Cruz , entonces llegó la hora de la comida y el sol estaba muy fuerte en esos días. Un campesino andaba buscando algun lugar en donde sentarse y comer por eso buscaba alguna sombra. De pronto, se halló una cueva y rápido corrió hacia ella. Cuando llegó, encontró que dentro de la cueva había oro en grandes cantidades y dejó caer la comida que cargaba, al piso. Rápidamente se empezó a llenar sus bolsillos de oro y su bolsa. Cuando ya tenía suficiente oro, empezó a buscar la salida de la cueva, para huír con el oro; pero no la podía encontrar , el se quedo totalmente a obscuras, y de repente el oyó una voz fuerte que le gritó "TODO O NADA", el campesino, se asustó, pero le respondió a la voz, que quieres decir todo o nada? La voz le respondió, " TE TIENES QUE LLEVAR TODO ESTE ORO DE AQUI DE UNA SOLA VEZ , O DE LO CONTRARIO , TU TE VAS A QUEDAR ENCERRADO AQUI, HASTA QUE TE MUERAS ,O TE DEJO LIBRE Y NO TE LLEVAS NADA DE ESTE ORO". El campesino no tuvo otra alternativa mas que irse sin nada. Para este entonces ,ya los demas campesinos lo estaban buscando. Cuando la puerta de la cueva se abrió, el campesino salió rápidamente, casi sofocandose y respirando con dificultad, la puerta se cerró. El campesino voltió a buscar la entrada pero ya no la encontró , entonces se quitó su camisa blanca y la amarró en un palo largo y la enterró en el suelo, como una señal, por si volviera. Despues corrió, pero se desmayó porque el sol estaba muy fuerte y él no había comido. Cuando sus compañeros lo encontraron él les explicó lo que había sucedido, pero no le creyeron , pero él al meter sus manos en sus bolsillos sacó polvo de oro, y sus compañeros se quedaron asombrados."

June: Entonces, esta es la leyenda de La Santa Cruz? Pues está muy interesante.

Father: "Sí, así la aprendí yo".

( In my next interview I interviewed my girlfriend. She tells me several stories/legends from La Casita, Texas. My girlfriend’s name is Claudia B. )

June: Hey um well Do you know any legends from La Casita?

Claudia B.: "Yes, my mom told us about a murder real close to where I live. It happened in September of 1977. It was around that time when there was a man named Sam, killing a bunch of people at random in New York City. Then they made a movie out of it, ‘Summer of Sam’ is the name of the movie in which John Leguizamo starts as Sam. The movie was based on a true story. Anyways that happened elsewhere, but here in La Casita someone else gruesomely killed a little girl. It was on an evening after school when a young little girl age 5 or around that age was ridding her bicycle alone on top of a hill. The evening was setting I mean the sunset was forming and she was ridding her bike near the dirt roads when a ‘psycho’ attacked her and raped and murdered her. The ‘psycho’ left her dead there on top of the hill. As the night continued and the little girl’s parents started worrying for their daughter they immediately contacted the police. When the authorities found her it was one of the worst gruesome scenes you could ever imagine. Up to date that crime remains unsolved. People from here call him ‘the psycho killer’. Then he attacked four years later but this time he attacked animals, the legend goes that he lured domestic pets by throwing them bait or food and he led them again to the same hill in which he raped and murdered the little girl. Some people think it was a make believe story".

June: You mean a hoax?

Claudia B.: " Yes it could have been a hoax. People from here don’t know if it was the same ‘psycho’ or not."

June: Was that also left unsolved?

Claudia B.: " Yes, it was also left unsolved. There is another legend which is actually a fact but there’s a legend that continues the fact. It was actually a love story gone wrong. There was a young guy who had a girlfriend in La Casita, and people from here used to compare him to ‘The Fonze" from Happy Days. One day while driving to his girlfriend’s house in his motorcycle. He and his friend both were ridding and making ‘donuts’ (doing circles with a vehicle in a paved road) and suddenly they lost control but he was not wearing his helmet and his friend was, and he died. His name was Efrain Martinez. People from here have claimed to have seen Efrain’s apparition on top of ‘Psycho Hill’."

June: Wow, that’s sad. I believe the story about the accident but I have it hard to believe the apparition statements.

Claudia B.: "Yeah I know what you mean, but that’s what people from here say. My parents also told us about another legend or incident which happened on a dark road which now people from here call it ‘psycho road’. Legend has it that on a windy night a young girl around the age of 11 or 12 was coming back home from a friend’s house and took a short cut through that road. As she started walking that lonely extremely dark road she turned back when she heard footsteps behind her following her quickly. When she turned back to see, she saw a dark figure walking pretty fast behind her gaining on her, the dark figure which looked like a man was caring a knife on both his right and left hands. In other words a knife in each hand. So she started screaming for help along the road and him screaming behind her almost catching up to her. Finally she reached her home, still screaming, and when she looked back he was no longer there. Her parents came out wondering what happened, and she explained it to them while crying. Soon her father contacted the neighbors and all the community started looking for that man or woman or whoever it was or whoever looked suspicious, but they found no one or no thing."

June: Whoa!! Now that story is believable.

Claudia B.: "Well it is I mean it was. Some people say that La Casita is enchanted or possessed by the Devil".

June: Well thanks for sharing these stories with me.

( In yet another interview, which actually was a recorded phone call, with my recently discovered new cousin who is also from La Casita. Dr. Mitchell you know her, her name is Elvira Garza. While being on the telephone with her she told me three stories, which are all true, that happened in La Casita. )

June: Hello hi sorry to bother you at this time but I was just going to ask you if you know the name of the man from La Casita who people say he lives underground?

Elvira on the phone: "Yes I do his name is Rene Montalvo."

June: So is it true that he lives underground?

Elvira on the phone: "Yes it’s true why don’t you come by his house and interview him?"

June: I don’t know how he might react if I’d go over there to interview him. I’d rather not.

Elvira on the phone: "Well you might be right I’d advice you not to because well there are strange things that happen there on that house. I’ll tell you that he is actually kind of my neighbor because well I live two houses from the cemetery and he lives right next to it. My parents say that his house is really nice but that he has a table made of dirt and the chairs too, and that’s where he and his family eat".

June: For reals!!. Wow. Do you know other stories from there?

Elvira on the phone: " Well there’s a story that happened right in front of the cemetery. On night a man was driving home when he saw someone asking for a ride and he stopped. The man got in the car but in the back seat. The driver asked the man where to and the strange man responded just up ahead. The driver started a friendly conversation with the strange man and the strange man was conversing with him as well, but soon it sounded as if the driver was asking questions and the stranger was not answering. The driver did not want to look back but when he finally got the courage to look back he stopped the car and found a note on the back seat that said: ‘thanks for the ride home’

June: Whoa! That gave me goosebumps. That was an eerie story. Do you have another one?

Elvira on the phone: "Well the one about the three girls that burned alive in the house also in front of the cemetery. There were three girls and two of them were pregnant".

June: My girlfriend told me that only one was pregnant and that those girls were her cousins who died in that house, but continue telling me the story.

Elvira on the phone: "Ok, well are you recording me?"

June: Um no ( feeling a bit nervous ) I’m writing all this down. ( I hope she buys it ).

Elvira on the phone: "Well ok, well it happened during school in the morning at around 10:00 am but I was in high school at that time. They said it was some electrical wires or something. Three girls died burned alive and two were pregnant.

June: Yeah I heard about that.

( End of my interview with Elvira. Before hanging up I told her that indeed I was recording her. Thank God for the speaker phone )

( In my next interview I interviewed my sister, which like myself attended Fort Ringgold school. There are several legends about apparitions of dead soldiers. My sister’s name is Mary. )

June: Mary have you heard any legends around or from Fort Ringgold?

Mary: "Yes I have, I know one from General Robert E. Lee’s house. They say that at nights it is haunted. When I was in high school our teacher took us on a field trip to look for the grave of the ‘Unknown Soldier’, but my teacher said that he never believed the story that he was a soldier. He believed it was the tombstone of the last known rioter from 1888, from the Rio Grande City Riot of 1888. He said the soldiers at Fort Ringgold executed him for the deaths of two men one named Sebree and the other one was the sheriff named...... um I forgot his name. Our teacher told the whole class this story and three years later committed suicide."

June: Wow that is weird. And you remembered all of this? Do you know if all this is true? I didn’t even know there was a riot in Rio Grande City.

Mary: Yes I remembered all this but our teacher told us the whole story in detail, but I forgot most of it. I don’t even remember my teacher’s name. I don’t know if what my teacher said was true or not I just heard it from him.

June: Oh ok well thanks for helping me with this research.

( end of interview with my sister Mary )
 
 

IV. What I learned from the search--how this information will help me.

There were many other stories/legends which I did not include due to the fact that this ‘I search’ paper was supposed to be 5-6 pages in length, but I have surpassed that line. I wish I could include those stories here as well but well there is always time for everything. From what I learned from this research was amazing. First I did not know that there had been a riot in Rio Grande City in 1888. Thanks to my sister if it had not been for her I think I would have never known because that story in fact did happen. I looked it up by typing in my search engine ‘History of South Texas’ and I found that story, which my sister was telling me in our interview. I found that story about a character named Victor Sebree and of a sheriff named W.W. Sheley. I found the information in The Handbook of Texas Online. Though I think my sister’s teacher changed the story a bit and made it into a legend and somehow mixed it up with the unmarked tombstone of the ‘unknown soldier’. Who knows maybe Mary’s teacher was correct and maybe he was on to something, but now we will never know since he killed himself. I think Mary’s teacher was right because his story does make sense if you would ask me, because how could there be only one grave of an unnamed soldier. Maybe it was a cover up. Only God knows.

Second thing that I learned during my research was that most of these killings, rapes, attacks, murders, accidents or whatever happened during the same month of September. Someone should do some research asking; Why do almost all murders happen in the month of September? Finally I learned the answers to the questions that I had, which were; 1. Are there any urban legends in Starr County? 2. What is it in us humans that we love for someone to tell us a scary story or just to listen to one? The answer to the first question was or is easy. The answer is yes, yes there are urban legends here in our own town. I believe that there are urban legends all over the world, but they differ as culture differs. The answer to question number two is not a right or wrong answer but rather the answer varies from individual to individual. Some of us may like a good scare and some may not. In my opinion of what I feel towards urban legends and/or scary stories is that it is a natural feeling I get to just want to listen to a new one.

I would like to conclude this I search paper by inserting the following quote from the movie Urban Legends. The quote is being said by the same guy who always played Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund. Actually what he says is the most important part of the movie.

"Last week we discussed folklore as a gage for the values of the society that created them. Today, today we get more specific. A baby-sitter receives menacing phone calls and upon investigating them she realizes that they are originating from an upstairs bedroom. The very room where she’s left the children under her care to sleep. Now, who’s heard this before? Hum?"

(Girl in class) "Well that really happened to a girl in my hometown".

( Laughing ) "Oh hum, yes. I’m sure it did I’m......

" I’m sure most of you grew up thinking that this happened to girls in, in all your hometowns, but it didn’t. You see, ‘the baby-sitter’ and ‘the man upstairs’ is what we call an urban legend. Contemporary folklore passed on as a true story. Now there are variations of this one going back to the 1960s. All of them containing the same cultural admonition: Young women mind your children or harm will come your way."

Robert Englund- Urban Legends
 
 

V. WORKS CITED-List of sources and all appendices.

Rio Grande City Riot of 1888 ( located online ) in the Handbook of Texas Online in the following website address:

http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/   --type in "rio grande city riot of 1888" in the search engine at that site.

for an overall history of Texas visit this website address:

http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/index.html

‘Summer of Sam’

http://www.ravecentral.com/summerofsam.html

for more information or to view the movie’s plot summary go to;

http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Studio/7842/sam.html

Robert E. Lee’s House located in Fort Ringgold 1860 ( still stands today )

http://www.vsta.com/~juandv/oldriopics/robeleehome.gif

Unknown Soldier- The Burial Site of the unknown soldier located in Fort Ringgold

http://www.vsta.com/~juandv/oldriopics/unknownsoldier.GIF

Fort Ringgold

http://www.vsta.com/~juandv/oldriopics/ftringelemcannons.gif

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark/ Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0064401707/ref=sim_books/103-7566761-7032656

Robert Englund - Nightmare on Elm Street

http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Lot/5423/robert.html

URBAN LEGENDS OFFICIAL WEBSITE

http://www.spe.sony.com/movies/urbanlegend/index.html
 

You may write to June Garza at junebone@earthlink.net
 
 

 © 2000 June Garza
Last updated March 11, 2000

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This paper, written for a college course, was submitted by June Garza, an enthusiastic reader from South Texas. Great research, June!----tbs

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